Have you ever had one of those awfully, horribly, and stressful weeks at work that you just have to get away? Well, I have those often, as I’m sure you do, but this past week was by far the worst. I work in tech support and our customers are independent or compound pharmacies and for some reason everything that could go wrong with our customers’ equipment and software did go wrong and I was taking emergency calls after emergency call that I was so busy I didn’t take lunch the first 3 days of the week, and an ice storm rolled through town and made roads hazardous so that didn’t help. I was so exhausted by the end of the week that I was glad I took Friday morning off to take my dad to his doctor’s appointment which gave me a little break.
After I took my dad to his appointment I took him home then went back to my place and made lunch (threw together whatever was in my fridge) then sat down and the entire weight of the week finally hit me and it hit me hard. I was so tired that I didn’t think I could stand back up – seriously. I thought a moment then decided to text my boss and told him that I could really use the afternoon off unless they absolutely needed me. He responded and gave me the go-ahead to take the rest of the day off – my chest was filled with relief.
Now that I had all this extra time what would I do? My wanderlust self immediately told me I should go somewhere – ANYWHERE, JUST GET AWAY! I looked on my laptop and saw that I had a bit saved up to do a small getaway and then I looked at Airbnb’s site to book a place. I first looked at this Dallas hostel I normally stayed at but it’s completely booked! That never happens. Normally I can just book a $20 bunk bed at the last second but not this time. Shit. Okay, so I thought about Kansas City as I had been there once before.
I looked for the cheapest room I could find and using the Instant Book feature I had a place just like that! Without giving it any other thought, I swung my backpack over my shoulder and jumped in the car and took off. As I’m driving I decide to turn off the radio and an interesting thought pops into my head, that I should do something I haven’t done in a long time.
Forget about time.
I slipped off my watch and didn’t look at the time for the rest of the day. I used to do this all the time when I first started wandering/traveling and would only look at the time if I absolutely had to. It’s a good way to cheat the brain because if your brain doesn’t know what time it is it’s always overestimating the time so if you do look at the time it’s a lot earlier than you think, and so you’re slowing down time.
Making the 5 hour drive from Oklahoma to Missouri, I soon found myself in Kansas and I felt peaceful as I drove through the flat lands as there was snow leftover from the storm that moved through the midwest that week.
I pulled off the turnpike to get some gas. As I’m refueling, I looked up a place to eat at for when I arrived in KC. A quick Google search for “healthiest restaurants in Kansas City” yielded few results (which I wasn’t surprised b/c they’re all about their BBQ), and I decided on a healthy vegan restaurant that had great reviews. It was Café Gratitude and I entered that in GMaps.
I arrived in downtown Kansas City around 6ish, based on simple addition in my head, and I navigated the weirdly angled streets until I found my destination. It took me awhile to find a parking spot then I walked into the restaurant and immediately fell in love with it.
A brick style warehouse, I could smell the fresh vegetables and various sauces from the kitchen, which was actually downstairs underneath the restaurant. I later learned that the owner of this restaurant took a trip to Cali and fell in love with this place and begged the owners to let her open one up in KC. After much begging, they allowed her to do so and so this is the only Café Gratitude you’ll find outside Cali.
I slid up to the bar and my bartender, a hipster looking Lena Dunham, gave me a menu and I asked for a good red. She mentions a red not on the menu – SOLD! I’ll take it, whatever it is! She pours me a glass of a Merlot from Argentina, made by Santa Julia. It’s the smoothest and tastiest Merlot I’ve had in a long time that I down the thing so fast that it goes to my head.
When it came time to order dinner, I asked Lena Dunham, “What’s good here?” I was eyeing their Spaghetti Squash w/Alfredo but she says everybody always gets that. What I really want to get is the Grilled Polenta w/Spaghetti Squash and the other hipster bartender wearing a fedora felt hat chimes in and completely agrees. So that’s what I get. OH. MY. GOD. Bruh. This dish was so chew and tasty that every single bite was more delicious than the last – something I didn’t think was possible.
I leave Café Gratitude feeling very satisfied and I head on over to my Airbnb, south of KC, until I land in a suburban area called Waldo (like “Where’s Waldo?”). The place I’m staying at is a nice two-story house, well decorated, mostly white. I go upstairs to my bedroom and drop my backpack and take in a breath of air… then it all hits me at once. I’m in Kansas City with no plans whatsoever. This all happened so fast that I didn’t have time to process it until now. And I get scared because what the hell am I going to do!? I don’t anybody here. Shit! I really didn’t think this through.
So I actually do some thinking, the wheels spinning fast in my head, and I get an immediate thought: the Kauffman Arts Performance Center. I had been there last year to see a ballet last year as I’ve recently become a ballet fanatic and a dancer recommended I go see a KC Ballet because they were “legit” and they were straight-up legit!
I looked to see if there’s any events going on at this center and thankful there are: a symphony going on tonight and tomorrow night. Sha-weet! We’ll call this Plan B. I’m not a classical guy but this would give me something to do. The website says if you show a student discount you’ll get a discounted ticket. Sha-weet! I have mine on me. (I was taking film classes at a local community college for fun but haven’t been enrolled in like a year. Shhhh.)
Then the second thought pops up in my head: how am I going to make friends? This is going to be tricky since there’s not an easy way to do this. I thought about this YouTube video I watched recently by these guys called The Yes Theory. These guys make videos where they say “yes” to various challenges and live their lives as if everyday was their last day. In this particular video I saw, they were challenged to go to a random city and convince a complete stranger – a girl – to front them dinner and a place to stay out to test the kindness of strangers. So they would arrive to these cities without any plans and hopefully find food and shelter from complete strainers. However, the catch was that they had to use Tinder to do this.
So these Yes Theory guys flew to 3 different European cities, and using Tinder they swiped and swiped until they found a girl in each city to buy them dinner or front a couch to sleep on. Dinner usually consisted of a hot dog or pretzel, and they were rejected like a million time, but their persistence worked! Thinking on this, I decided that I’d do something quite similar: I would use my dating app, MeetMindful, to see if I could find a girl who was willing to show me KC or at the very least recommend some good places around here.
I whipped out my phone and opened up my app (which is geared for the yogi/wandering/free-spirited type but really anyone can use it) and I change my location in my settings to KC and I just start scrolling through profiles. Now, I wasn’t liking every profile I saw, just the ones I found interesting in case we ever actually met and had to have a conversation. I liked about a dozen profiles, waited a little bit, then a girl liked me back. Yes! One brave soul. I look at this girl’s profile. She’s cute, a brunette, her name is Kristina, and she’s a chef. A CHEF. Perfect!
So we get to talking and I eventually tell her the truth: that I’m from out of town and would appreciate it she could provide me some recommendations of the best spots in KC. She’s happy to give me recommendations as she’s been in my shoes before. We talk a little bit more and she’d love to meet for coffee on Sunday as she finds me to be the “textbook example of living in the moment” after I told her about my spontaneous getaway. Yes! I have something to look forward to now. And I go to bed feeling better about my sudden and thoughtless decision to come here.
The next morning I wake up with a weird thought: I have absolutely nowhere to be… Hm. That is weird. Since my muscles are feeling tight and achy I figure I’d do some yoga. I looked through my phone and found a yoga studio nearby called Yoga Patch and see there’s a class starting up in 20 mins, AHSNAPS! I spring out of bed and throw on some clothes – so much for a relaxing morning – and speed over and arrive at this cool place.
The inside was filled with all kinds of decorations that it reminded me of an antique shop, and there were parakeets chirping away in their cages as the owner was a lover of birds. To top it all off, there was also a small cafe because why not.
I liked my yoga instructor, he was a really cool dude named Brandon. Since he was also a musician he played his guitar during the last phase of our yoga class known as “shavasana”. It was great. I highly recommend this place for anyone in the area.
Afterwards, I looked for a place to eat at. I’m glad Kristina sent me a list of the great spots, it’s like having a digital treasure map of Kansas City. I scrolled through the list until I decided on Genesse Royal Bistro.
This small building sat in front of the humongous brick building that was formerly known as the Kansas Stock Live Stock Exchange. It was just the place I was looking for.
Everything on the menu was mostly filled with gluten and I order the healthiest thing I can find: soft scrambled eggs with roasted chili, potatoes, salsa fresca, and KCMEX corn tortillas. Damn, it was a fiesta in my mouth! And it was all locally sourced so extra points.
Then I decided to grab coffee at one of the places on my treasure map: Blip. It took me awhile to find as I had to drive through downtown KC, down a highway bridge that slopped at 30°, and around all these brick warehouses until I finally found it.
I went home happy to have some local coffee. When I arrived I met one of the Airbnb co-hosts, Steve, cleaning the house. He was a really cool guy, very much a country boy, laid back, and a former military member (thank you again for your service).
Steve was cleaning because there were two people arrive later that night. I noticed a Corona sitting on the counter that he was milking to quench his thirst as he cleaned. Then he offered me a Corona but I just gestured my coffee and said I’m good to avoid the whole “I quit gluten” talk. However, the former beer snob inside of me wanted to laugh, “Bah! If you think Corona is beer then you’ve obviously never tried a little something called craft beer.” But I don’t say this because that’s just rude. But I know I’m right.
We talked for a bit then I asked him if there’s a grocery store nearby and he tells me about Hy-Vee and I make a mental note to check this out later then I head upstairs and take my beauty afternoon nap.
After my nap, I went outside and started walking to Hy-Vee. I check my phone and see that it’s 2.5 miles!?! Oh, man! Well, sheeeat… But then I think, I got this. And I would’ve had this if it hadn’t started raining halfway there. I panicked when rain hit my face because I didn’t have an umbrella on me but I did have my hooded all-weather jacket on, but I don’t know what to do: Should I keep going? Should I run back home like a little girl. As I’m trying to make up mind I’m doing one of those lateral Football drills where I’m stepping from side to side, and I decide that since I’m a man I’m going to finish this out and tough the rain. It becomes my Everest.
So I trekked through the muddy terrain (when there weren’t sidewalks) and ran across some dangerous streets (when I didn’t feel like waiting at the crosswalk) and eventually I arrived at my destination, never been happier to see a grocery store in my entire life. It’s so warm and white inside that I actually call this heaven.
My nose is sniffling as I walked around and the store and I eventually find their refrigerated section where they have packaged dinners for $5-ish. I find the one that looks like it has the least amount of gluten and also grab an organic banana. As I’m standing in line to check out, I get a notification from my dating app. It’s a new message from a girl named Callyn: “Hey, how’s it going ?” Oh, how original. You really wanna know how it’s going? J/k. Sort of.
Anyways, I looked at her profile pic and remembered that I had hid her profile (you can press a button to hide their profiles from your search results) because she had 2 weird profile pics. Pic #1: her wearing a blonde wig that indicated a fakeness to me. Pic #2: her holding a toddler boy which I had assumed was her kid. I didn’t look at her remaining 3 pics and hid her profile. Now at the grocery store I ignored her message and also wondered how she found me.
After I paid for my food, I walked outside relieved to see the rain had stopped. I chewed my banana in large bites to throw some quick energy into my body for my return journey home and when I arrived back home I told Steve about what happened. He thinks I’m nuts for even walking there without rain! It’s too far. Then he then gives me advice that his momma gave him: If you don’t like the weather just wait 5 minutes and it’ll change. Uhhh, what the fuck…? That’s not advice. Unless your mom meant to say, “Wait 50 minutes and the weather might change.” Your mom obviously hasn’t been on a Missouri grocery store walk in awhile. But I don’t say this because that’s rude. But I know I’m right.
I eat my blah-ish dinner and decided to check out Callyn’s profile just for shits and giggles and I’m shocked at what I find out: 1.) She’s a pre-school teacher. 2.) She recently visited Vietnam and describes it as the most beautiful country on Earth. 3.) She’s actually very gorgeous when I looked at her other 3 profile pics. The kid thing was still unclear as she preferred not to answer that section but I don’t care, I actually want to meet her and hear all about her life story. I regret having hid her and quickly messaged her back like a desperate Pepé Le Pew hoping she’ll respond and that maybe, just maybe, we can meet up. I figured it would take her some time to respond and she eventually does, but it’s like hours later and even then the convo goes nowhere, so everything worked out the way it was supposed to.
Since I hadn’t heard back from Callyn at the time, I decided to execute Plan B and go to the symphony. I wasn’t dressed for the occasion since I had left my house in a hurry wearing only a plaid shirt and chinos but I remembered seeing a white Oxford shirt sitting in my the back of my car, so I put that on and slicked my hair back and headed on over.
If you’ve never been to the Kauffman Performance Center you’re in for a real treat. This place has unique architecture that it’s a little hard to describe: one side of it looks like a dumbbell and the other side is all glass. Because the Kauffman Center sits near the peak of KC. You can look down upon the rest of the city. It’s actually quite breathtaking.
I arrived at this glorious Pantheon and purchased my super discounted ticket of $10, instead of $59.50, and I feel all fancy and shit with all these well-dressed people around me.
At my seat, I looked over my program to see what I’d be listening to. The KC Symphony will perform exquisite pieces from the composers Bernstein, Prokofiev, & Schumann. Oh, how cool! That’s so awesome! Yeah, right on! What did I do to deserve this!?! (Spurting/fart noise from my mouth.) I have NO idea who any of these guys are. I assume they’re all dead and that one of them probably didn’t inspire a children’s series about a family of hillbilly cartoon bears.
The concert proceeds and the first act is a Bernstein piece which wasn’t that bad but the second piece was where it was at! It was a Prokofiev concerto and they brought in this really young dude named Stephen Waarts who was a violinist and acting as the “antagonist” and playing against the symphony. He could play the violin like it was nobody’s business! There were times when he played really fast like a mad person, then times when he played soft and beautiful notes that a tear crept in my eye. I gave him a standing ovation.
Okay, so during intermission something exciting happened! It neared the end of our break and they rang that bell that says, “Yo, the show’s about to start so get the hell back inside before we lock you out FOREVER!“ (That bell, whatever it’s called.) I decided to let all the old geezers go in first because I’m nice like that and so I lingered around in the lobby for a few minutes then I headed back inside.
Well, as I’m walking I hear these heels running towards me and out of the corner of my eyes I see this gorgeous blonde, a super hot Ashley Olsen, coming right towards me and I also realize that she works there because she’s wearing a dark pencil skirt w/matching blazer like all the other female ushers but she makes this outfit look really good.
“Sir. Sir!” Trying to get my attention.
I stopped. “Yeah?”
She quickly catches up and says in her sexy, sassy voice, “Hey, do you have a lighter?”
I wished I did but I don’t smoke. “No, I’m sorry. I don’t.” And I’m thinking, WHY DON’T I HAVE A LIGHTER!!!! I SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE A LIGHTER!!!! A BOY SCOUT MIGHT NEED ONE!!!!
She looks disappointed and to keep my cool persona I add, “Yeah, sorry, I left it in my car.”
“Oh. Well, you’re very handsome and you looked like a smoker…” And we just stared at each other a moment, then I had to turn to take a swallow because that’s the hottest thing anyone has ever said to me, a non-smoker. Whew! I wanted to fan myself off but I didn’t want her to see me. And the entire rest of the concert I keep replaying that in my head, I rarely tuned in to listen to the symphony. I kept wondering how I can maintain this “handsome smoker” look. And I also think that I should probably just move here because I seem to have way better luck with women than I do back home.
The next morning I wake excited for two reasons: 1.) The sun had finally came up. It had been gray and dreary all week. And 2.) I finally get to meet Kristina. I’m a little nervous but very excited. We had decided to meet at a coffee shop called Quay (pronounced “key”) and I made a vow to myself not to check this place out because I wanted to be surprised when I arrived.
So I put Quay into my phone and followed GMaps until I arrived in the northern part of downtown KC which was an area that I had not really been to before. I’m immediately in love with this area, it seems secluded and cozy, the Missouri River is just north of it, and there’s lots of joggers out. I make a mental note to stay here next time.
I walked around until I found Quay and as soon as I walked in I realized this was the coffee shop I had been looking for in KC. Vintage. Filled with those cool circular wooden tables and hairpin chairs. It’s like something you’d find in a nostalgic part of NYC or Paris.
Being a creature of habit, I ordered my usual iced latte and snagged a table that just opened up. There are students around me on their laptops typing up papers. There are also females, the socialites of KC, grabbing coffee to help recover from the previous night. They got made up but they’re dressed to look messy: tights, a sweatshirt, and a cap.
Through the front glass, I immediately see Kristina walking, recognizing her wavy hair from her profile pic. She walks in and I raise my hand up and give a smile. She spots me and gives me one of those gasping smiles and I stand and we formally introduce ourselves. Then she goes and gets a coffee and comes back with a pour-over, supposedly the best thing there. She lets me try a sip. OH. MY. GOD. It’s amazing. Dark. Earthy. That awesome flavor stuck to my throat. I tell myself to come back to KC just for this.
Anyways, we start conversing and getting to know each other. It’s an easy and natural conversation. She’s a chef at a local farm-to-table restaurant and this was also a dream job of hers but since it’s a stressful industry she’s looking for a more quieter career and might make a move into yoga in some way. I can totally relate since my job can be quite stressful at times, since we all know that technology fails us when we don’t need it to, and I’ve consider being a traveling yoga instructor or something.
She mentions a Farmer’s Market down the street and feeling adventurous we decide to check it out. This area is actually really cool. It used to be a major hub for trains crossing in and out of the city but they’ve filled in the tracks with concrete and have leveled it off into one giant parking lot, however the stations where you would wait for your train are still intact which is where vendors are set up.
Had the weather been warmer this place would’ve been crawling with lots more people but I’m glad it wasn’t because it was just right. We walked and checked out the vendors and ironically there was a guy trying to sell me a really cool vintage lighter (a little late, buddy). He hustled me and kept dropping the price but I never caved in. Props for trying though.
Kristina told me about a steamboat on display and pointed to the building where it was supposedly housed at. I called shenanigans because there was no way a building of that small size could house A STEAMBOAT, and it would’ve been very difficult to even get that out of the water and hoist it up here. We go inside and sure enough, I’m right. There was only a large paddlewheel on display.
She then mentioned this restaurant called Brown & Loe that was right by Farmer’s Market that used to be a bank and they left bank vault door intact and it leads to their kitchen. “Okay, I have to check this out!” So we go there and sure enough there’s a vault door that leads into their kitchen!
She suggested grabbing a brunch cocktail and I don’t say no. We slid up to the bar and she recommends the Amaro Stone Sour and we get two of those and damn, it was really good and this is coming from a guy who doesn’t care for cocktails. Ingredients: amaro, lemon, lime, orange, and egg white. Highly recommend it.
I’m glad we got the cocktail because it helped us open up more to each other and we talked about some deep and personal stuff but mostly about positive stuff. A few of the positive/interesting things we agreed on:
1.) The Law of Attraction. A theory derived from quantum physics, it states that all matter in the universe is vibrating a certain frequency and that any matter vibrating at the same frequency will naturally be attracted to each other. Well, the same thing can be said of people. If you’re putting out positive vibes in the universe then you’ll attract positive people. (Perhaps we were an example of this since we would’ve never met otherwise.)
2.) After exchanging some of our favorite travel stories, we agreed that the best trips were the ones based on people who showed you around and allowed you into their world (falling in line with my 2 rules of traveling).
3.) That our parent’s generation (or at least our parents) talked about going on all these adventures but really we’re the ones doing that for them. Then we agreed that our kids would be saying the same thing and that they won’t find us adventurous enough.
As we were talking I realized that Kristina was more adventurous than she gave herself credit for. I wished she could see herself the way I did. She called me the textbook example of living in the moment but I have to call her the textbook example of being so adventurous that she doesn’t know it nor gives herself enough credit.
Eventually, we leave Brown & Loe and depart at her car, embracing in a goodbye hug. This wasn’t a romantic date by any sense as we had agreed beforehand that this wasn’t a “date per se,” it was more like “two people with really great tastes getting together for coffee.” But now I’d say it was “two wondering and adventurous souls coming together in the universe for a simply great time.”
As I was driving home, I reflected on my weekend in KC. Yes, I was scared this weekend because I had no idea what was going to happen. This was truly the unknown for me as I had never done anything this spontaneous before, but now I’m so glad I came.
Then I thought about my first night when I was at Café Gratitude. As I was finishing my meal I noticed this message written on the bottom of my plate that said:
What are you grateful for?
What an interesting question for your plate to ask you. At the time, I said I was grateful for being alive but this was more of an automated and half-hearted answer. But now I knew what I was grateful for: for having met Kristina and her giving me an adventure I otherwise wouldn’t have had.